Forming Good Affinities and Spreading Love

National Headquarters  |  December 30, 2022
Master's Teachings December

Teachings by Dharma Master Cheng Yen
Translated by Dharma as Water Development Department, Tzu Chi USA

In Tzu Chi, volunteers may not be able to see each other often, but  when we do gather together, we often reminisce about the past,  saying things like, “I remember that back then, we were both in Tzu  Chi doing this…” It is because of everyone’s mindful dedication and  the affinities we share that Tzu Chi volunteers can come together in  teams to help others. 

Though in the past we may not have known each other, once we  gathered and worked together in a group, whether it was to go into  the mountains, remote areas, or our local area, we came to feel very  close. This sense of closeness is the love we have for our Dharma family.  To continue this bond in Tzu Chi and extend our love in the world, we  must interact with others. If we say, “I am in Tzu Chi and doing Tzu  Chi’s work” without interacting with others, our bond will not be very  strong. I hope everyone will follow the message of the teaching that we  must “form good affinities with people before attaining Buddhahood.” 

Thus, we must have faith in the Buddha Dharma; we seek the Buddha  Dharma not because we seek blessings, or to fulfill our personal wishes.  Rather, we recognize that we will reap what we sow; we cannot  escape from our past karmic conditions and their effects. With karmic  causes come karmic effects; blessed causes will bring blessings, and  causes with resentment and enmity will bring effects of resentment  and enmity. 

Whether good or bad, all things are influenced by karmic causes and  conditions. Past karmic causes create present karmic effects. Good  karmic conditions from the past have led us to meet in Tzu Chi and to  joyous affinities with our Dharma relatives. These present karmic effects  become karmic causes for the future, and very subtle conditions are  encompassed within. In this lifetime, we should form good affinities  that will lead to good karmic conditions and effects in future lifetimes. 

In understanding these things, how should we engage in spiritual  practice in Tzu Chi? Do we have to become monastics in order to do  so? Actually, lay Bodhisattvas grow in wisdom. As lay-bodhisattva  practitioners, we can encounter people from all walks of life. We can  see and hear many things, and develop knowledge about society and  the world. We may even be more knowledgeable and understand more  things, however, we must remember to “transform knowledge into  wisdom.” 

We have the opportunity to learn the Buddha’s teachings, and what  is even more precious is that we have the causes and conditions to be  in Tzu Chi. So, we must grow in wisdom as we see, hear, and come in  contact with more things. 

Before getting to know Tzu Chi, perhaps we may frequently have  taken issue with others. Our past karmic conditions brought about  unhappy karmic effects. Now, with the power of Tzu Chi, even if we  encounter causes of resentment, we can transform our thoughts and  open our mind, thereby transforming bad causes to good conditions.  Furthermore, being able to leverage such strength is also a blessing.  Have you practiced spiritually in Tzu Chi? As you learn to transform  knowledge into wisdom, you are in fact engaging in spiritual practice. 

Monastics are not attached with the outside world, but have the calm  wisdom of the Buddha Dharma. This is just like the clear and still water  in a well; no matter how much is pumped out, spring water will fill  the well again, without danger of causing it to overflow. As spiritual  practitioners, we must be able to extend and withdraw ourselves. We  extend ourselves when sentient beings are in need, and we withdraw  from things unrelated to sentient beings’ needs. This is the state of  spiritual practice of monastics. 

Lay practitioners have the causes and conditions to give back to society,  according to the needs of the world. With a giving heart, there is no  need to worry about losing the amount that we give. We just need to  take care of our pure, intrinsic nature, and give without asking anything  in return. Our love is unlimited, like spring water; it neither increases  nor decreases. 

I often say, “I am grateful!” but I rarely say, “Amitabha.” This is because  when we recite the Buddha’s name, it is about keeping the Buddha in  our hearts. We must know there is a Buddha in our heart and remind  ourselves that we intrinsically possess pure Buddha nature. 

When we encounter fellow Buddhist practitioners, we can put our palms  together and say “Amitabha.” If we say “Amitabha” to Protestants,  Catholics, or people of other religions, does that make people uneasy?  I believe that most people understand that it is Buddhist etiquette  simply to place your palms together reverently. 

We must take care of the image of Buddhist practitioners. We can be  lively, but we should maintain a dignified demeanor. I hope Tzu Chi  volunteers will take care of Tzu Chi’s image in society, and truly give  without asking for anything in return. A Buddhist teaching states,  “Enter the door of the Buddha and you will not be poor. Exit the door  and you will not be rich.” If what we do is right, we do not need to  ask others for blessings; we seek blessings from within. What we do is  what we will receive in return. This is the power of love.

Compiled from Master Cheng Yen’s teachings from the conversation with central region volunteers on November 10, 2022

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